A courtesan of Vesāli. She became a devout follower of the Buddha, and building a vihāra in her own garden, gave it to him and the Order. This was during the Buddha’s last visit to Vesāli shortly before his death. It is said that when Ambapālī heard of the Buddha’s visit to Koṭigāma near Vesāli she and her retinue drove out of the city in magnificent chariots to meet him, and, after hearing a discourse, invited him and the monks to a meal the next day. The Buddha accepted this invitation and had, as a result, to refuse that of the Licchavis of Vesāli.
While returning from her visit to the Buddha, Ambapālī was so elated at the idea of having the Buddha to a meal the next day, that she refused to make way for the Licchavi princes who were on their way to the Buddha. She refused to give up her invitation for anything in the world. Just before Ambapālī’s visit to him, the Buddha admonished the monks to be steadfast and mindful, lest they should lose their heads about her.
It was after this meal that Ambapālī gave over her park, the Ambapālivana, to the Buddha and the Order. The Buddha accepted the gift and stayed there some time before going on to Beluva. Vin.i.231–233 DN.ii.95–98
Nineteen verses ascribed to her are found in the Therīgāthā. Thig.252–270
It is said that she charged fifty kahāpanas a night from her patrons and that Vesāli became very prosperous through her. It was this that prompted Bimbisāra to get a courtesan for his own city of Rājagaha. Vin.i.268